Microbes measure ecological restoration success

The researchers used next generation sequencing of the DNA in soil from samples taken across the site that had a range of plantings between six and 10 years old.

The technique – high-throughput amplicon sequencing of environmental DNA (eDNA), otherwise known as eDNA metabarcoding – identifies and quantifies the different species of bacteria in a sample.

The researchers – students Nick Gellie and Jacob Mills, Dr Martin Breed and Professor Lowe – analysed soil samples at the restoration site at Mt Bold Reservoir in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, and compared them with neighbouring wilderness areas as ‘reference sites’.

“We showed that the bacterial community of an old field which had been grazed for over 100 years had recovered to a state similar to the natural habitat following native plant revegetation – an amazing success story,” says Dr Breed, Research Fellow in the Environment Institute.

“A dramatic change in the bacterial community were observed after just eight years of revegetation. The bacterial communities in younger restoration sites were more similar to cleared sites, and older sites were more similar to the remnant patches of woodland.”

Revegetation rewilds the soil bacterial microbiome of an old field – Gellie – 2017 – Molecular Ecology – Wiley Online Library

Plant Species Diversity Improves Soil Ecosystems. [Rant]

Plant species diversity doesn’t improve soil

The above quote was left as a reply to a comment I’d left on a big ag research and education industry video talking about cover crops ages ago. It still irks me that these people are so ignorant.

Today I read the following study on plant species diversity’s impact on soil ecosystems, albeit in a conservation and restoration context that ends up restoring degraded agricultural lands these people create:

Restoring and managing for more diverse plant communities can improve recovery of belowground biology and functioning in predictable ways. Specifically, we found greater accumulation of roots, more predictable recovery of soil microorganisms (bacteria and fungal biomass), more rapid improvement in soil structure (less compaction), and less nitrogen available for loss from the system  in prairie restored and managed for high plant diversity (>30 species) relative to the low diversity (<10 species) grassland plantings.  Thus, the hypothesis that biodiversity promotes ecosystem functioning is relevant to large-scale conservation and restoration practices on the landscape.

Restoration and management for plant diversity enhances the rate of belowground ecosystem recovery


Soil networks become more connected and take up more carbon as nature restoration progresses



Soil organisms have an important role in aboveground community dynamics and ecosystem functioning in terrestrial ecosystems. However, most studies have considered soil biota as a black box or focussed on specific groups, whereas little is known about entire soil networks. Here we show that during the course of nature restoration on abandoned arable land a compositional shift in soil biota, preceded by tightening of the belowground networks, corresponds with enhanced efficiency of carbon uptake. In mid- and long-term abandoned field soil, carbon uptake by fungi increases without an increase in fungal biomass or shift in bacterial-to-fungal ratio. The implication of our findings is that during nature restoration the efficiency of nutrient cycling and carbon uptake can increase by a shift in fungal composition and/or fungal activity. Therefore, we propose that relationships between soil food web structure and carbon cycling in soils need to be reconsidered.

Soil networks become more connected and take up more carbon as nature restoration progresses : Nature Communications